An NFU Scotland delegation visiting Brussels has received warning that damaging EU proposals to introduce new restrictions on animal transport could be put back on the European agenda within a few short weeks.
During a day of parliamentary and industry meetings in the Belgian capital, NFU Scotland’s President Jim McLaren, Vice-President Nigel Miller and Chief Executive James Withers were given a clear steer that, as feared, the European Commission department responsible for animal transport remains determined to force through ill-judged proposals.
In early September, NFU Scotland got sight of a leaked Commission document outlining controversial, costly and impractical animal transport rules. By mid-September, following concerns expressed by NFUS and others, these plans were withdrawn from internal European Commission consultation. Now, it appears they may be a few short weeks from them re-emerging.
The NFUS delegation discussed the animal transport issue with three of Scotland’s MEPs – George Lyon, Alyn Smith and Struan Stevenson – on their Brussels visit.
Speaking from Brussels, James Withers said:
“When these proposals first emerged, we reacted quickly, got the Scottish industry and politicians behind us, and were delighted when proposals were initially shelved. However, as we said at the time, we felt they had only disappeared temporarily and were likely to re-emerge in some form. During this visit, we have been given a clear steer that our fears of their return will be realised and the fight to have them thrown out, once and for all, will step up a further gear.
“NFUS has consistently argued that animal transport already operates to the highest standards in the UK. However, poor enforcement of the existing laws is more common on the Continent. The proposals to further restrict the movement of animals will do nothing to address that lack of enforcement and any existing welfare problems abroad but, perversely, will penalised those countries like Scotland, who operate to high standards.
“Our dialogue with the Commission and politicians on this issue, both here and at home, must now step up a gear and we have taken the opportunity during this visit to meet several of our MEPs. Scotland is fortunate to have a group of MEPs who have a sound knowledge of farming issues.
“We recognise there are real welfare issues on very long journeys between member states, particularly in southern Europe. We want to work with the Commission and MEPs to propose targeted solutions to that problem but without hammering countries such as Scotland with an excellent track record on what are, very often, essential livestock movements.”
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